Why American Politics Has Become Vulgar and Violent
In September, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer relaxed the chamber’s formal dress code — coat, tie and slacks for men, but no specified attire for women — to accommodate Sen. John Fetterman, who wore hoodies and gym shorts in the Senate cloakroom. After an outcry, the Senate voted unanimously to reinstate the code.
“Putting on a suit,” the Washington Post editorial board opined, “creates an occasion for lawmakers to reflect, just for a moment, on the special responsibility with which the people have entrusted them and on a deliberate process that at least aspires to solemnity.” With voter approval of government at all-time lows, the editors added, the Senate “might want to avoid looking even a tiny bit more like a high school cafeteria.” Sen. Joe Manchin also affirmed the value of “some basic rules of decorum, conduct, and civility.”
A formal dress code, alas, has not diminished the coarsening of American politics, which continues to increase at an alarming rate in Congress and throughout the country. The new normal of vulgar and violent rhetoric directed at political opponents is obliterating the fundamental components of a functioning democracy: courtesy, cooperation, compromise, trust in the integrity of public officials, including the “loyal opposition” and the rule of law.
In June, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called Rep. Lauren Boebert “a little bitch” on the floor of the House. Months later, after a security camera caught Boebert vaping and engaging in what she later confessed was “unacceptable” behavior (also known as groping), Greene dissed her colleague as “a whore.” Calling Boebert a “whore,” is not new, said another member of Congress, “she’s being doing that for a while.”
This month, after Rep. Darrell Issa stated that Greene lacked the “maturity and experience” to use the proper procedures to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, she called him “a pussy.” Greene also mocked Rep. Rosa DeLauro as cognitively diminished, falsely implying that the 80-year-old congresswoman forgot she had voted for the continuing resolution to fund the government a few hours earlier.
At about the same time, Rep. Tim Burchett, one of eight Republicans who voted to eject House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, accused McCarthy of walking down the hallway and delivering what Burchett characterized as “a shot to the kidneys.” “Hey Kevin, you got any guts?,” Burchett asked, before calling the former Speaker “a jerk,” “pathetic,” and “a bully.” McCarthy later said, “I guess our shoulders hit or something.”
The “shot heard round the Capitol” was yet more evidence of “a substantial increase in breaches of decorum unlike anything we have seen since the pre–Civil War era,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, leader of the effort to get rid of McCarthy.
Meanwhile, during a Senate committee hearing, first-term Sen. Markwayne Mullin confronted Sean O’Brien, president of the Teamsters Union. Mullin, a former mixed martial arts fighter, read a tweet from O’Brien calling him a “greedy CEO who pretends he’s self-made,” but “in reality is a clown and fraud… You know where to find me. Any place, any time, cowboy.”